Analysis and Commentary on Politics

The Damage in the Wake of the Non-Scandal at the IRS


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes how Republicans' unjustified war on the Internal Revenue Service and attempts to defund it have incidentally caused all charitable organizations to suffer. Buchanan recounts the non-scandal involving the IRS and highlights the inconsistencies in Republicans' rhetoric as to that incident-which led to dire consequences not just for honest taxpayers but for legitimate charitable groups and the people who would like to support them.

Maybe He’s Just a Bum


Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies considers the contention that President Trump's frequent tweets criticizing the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Mueller and others are an assault on the "rule of law." Margulies notes that the prevailing view on this rather nebulous concept seems to be that the law must be allowed to operate without criticism from anyone it targets. Not only is this interpretation overly literal and simplistic, Margulies argues, President Trump’s criticism also does not amount to such an assault. The president’s attempts to interfere with the ongoing investigation, his order for Special Counsel Mueller to be fired, and other actions, on the other hand, come far closer to constituting an (attempted) assault on the rule of law.

Trump’s Base: They Are Authoritarians


John W. Dean, former White House counsel under President Richard Nixon, continues his series of columns analyzing Donald Trump's "base." In this column, Dean explores the observation that the core supporters of Trump's presidency are best described by social scientists as "authoritarians."

Did Trump Inadvertently Make Banning Dreamers Unconstitutional?


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the apparent conflict between President Trump's declaration that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unconstitutional and his decision to delay ending it. Buchanan considers whether the inconsistent positions with respect to the program actually affect the constitutional options available to him.

Trump’s Base: Broadly Speaking, Who Are They?


John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, continues his series of columns discussing Donald Trump's base-the persistent 24 percent of people who voted for him or who have spoken approvingly of him to pollsters. Though Dean awaits the results of one of the major studies of Trump's base, he notes that the 2016 exit poll demographics suggest that given Trump's 12-point margin over Clinton with men, his base is predominately male.

The Meaning of Trump’s Plan to Keep Gitmo Open


Cornell University Michael C. Dorf explains the symbolism of President Donald Trump's announcement during his State of the Union address that he would be keeping the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay open. Dorf points out that despite the extraordinarily high cost of keeping the facility open, Republicans support its continued operation simply as repudiation of President Obama, who wanted to close it. Dorf points out that Republicans' opposition to closing Gitmo during the Obama presidency also jibed with the not-so-veiled racism of many Republicans who questioned Obama's citizenship and commitment to the US (disregarding the fact that President Bush actually released more Gitmo detainees than President Obama did).

The #MeToo Elephant in the Room During the 2018 State of the Union


Marci A. Hamilton, a professor and resident senior fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, critiques President Donald Trump for failing to mention the #MeToo movement during his State of the Union address. Hamilton posits that like Dr. Larry Nassar, who was accused of sexually abusing 265 young gymnasts, Trump believes he can indefinitely deflect questions about sexual assault, but she argues that he can do so only because the Republicans and evangelicals are propping him up.

Spin Class: The Press Inexplicably Scorns the Democrats After the Government Shutdown


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan calls out media outlets for blaming Democrats (or at least calling it a Democratic failure) for the government shutdown. Buchanan describes the generally favorable political environment for Democrats but the dangerous terrain they face, and he reiterates the point that the press unfairly applies different rules when covering Democrats and Republicans.

Travel Ban 3.0 Heads to the Supreme Court: Win or Lose the Battle, the Resistance is Winning the War


Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that regardless of the outcome of President Trump's "Travel Ban 3.0" before the US Supreme Court, the litigation challenging the Travel Ban should be regarded as a victory over Trump's effort to rule by diktat. In support of this argument, Dorf points out that the litigation makes it abundantly clear to the American people that Trump remains every ounce the same vile and petty would-be tyrant that he appeared on the campaign trail.

Trump’s Base


In this first of a two-part series of columns, John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, considers who it is that comprises Donald Trump’s “base.” Dean describes the ways in which polls have correctly and incorrectly described Trump’s supporters and comments on the steady few who seem to support him no matter what.

Two (But Only Two) Jeers for Enforcing the Federal Marijuana Law in Legalized States


Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent announcement by Attorney General Sessions that the Trump Department of Justice was rescinding an Obama administration policy toward state-legal marijuana. Dorf argues that the policy shift breaks promises by then-candidate Trump and then-Senator Sessions, but that objections to the new policy on federalism grounds are largely misguided.

Manafort’s Civil Action Attacking Special Counsel Mueller—A Publicity Ploy


John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s civil action attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Dean agrees with many other legal commentators that Manafort’s lawsuit is a publicity stunt and posits that, further, it gives Manafort’s lawyers a way to talk about his prosecution by the special counsel without violating the gag order imposed in the criminal case.

Damning Democrats With False Equivalence Is Bad, But This Is Worse


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes several instances in which supposedly neutral (or even liberal) sources are unjustly criticizing Democrats for everything they do, characterizing them as hapless losers. Buchanan explains why this criticism is not only unfair but worse than even false equivalence arguments.

Liberals Should Readily Condemn Sexual Misconduct by Democratic Men


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses allegations of sexual misconduct aimed at Democratic men in power and the opposing views progressive writers have taken as to whether these men should resign. Buchanan considers arguments for and against resignation, and reasserts his stance that these men should not be allowed to remain in office. Moreover, Buchanan argues, Democrats should be less fixated on defending these men against Republican attacks (especially those who have not been in office for years) than they are on issues that truly matter in current United States politics.

Why Washington Reacts More Slowly to Sexual Misconduct Allegations Than Hollywood


Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the recent spate of sexual misconduct allegations in the political sphere and entertainment industry, and notes how much less inclined to action and condemnation the former is compared to the latter. Dorf illustrates this point by considering the allegations against Donald Trump and Roy Moore, as well as various well-known Hollywood players, then evaluates several factors that may explain the contrast in reactions. Dorf concludes that the polarized, partisan state of our government, coupled with weak political parties, ultimately leaves Washington far more powerless to purge offending individuals than Hollywood.

Right Thing, Wrong Reason: Killing the Republican Tax Plan with Anti-Deficit Arguments Is a Bad Idea


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses politicians' current fixation on the budget deficit and argues that Democrats who take an anti-deficit stance to attack the Republican tax bill are playing right into Republicans’ hands. Buchanan explains why blanket declarations about decreasing the budget deficit as a tax reform fix-all are problematic and cautions Democrats (along with journalists who report on tax reform issues) to be mindful of the arguments they choose when countering Republicans.

Reflections on Insurrections


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers the irony of the (hopefully remote) possibility that people might resort to violence to keep President Trump in power. Buchanan explains the “insurrectionist view” of the Second Amendment, which has never been credited by the Supreme Court, but which holds that the founders included the gun-related amendment in the Bill of Rights to prevent the federal government from running roughshod over the people. Buchanan points out the circular logic that under the insurrectionist view, the reason people need guns is to prevent the government from taking their guns.

Oh, Those Crazy Commissions


Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes the ongoing military commissions operating at Guantanamo, costing US taxpayers over $90 million per year. Margulies explains why the commissions are are all symbol and no substance but why politicians will never suggest that they be shut down.

Yes, the Political and Economic Issue of Our Time Really Is Inequality


George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that economic inequality is the political and economic issue of our time, and now is the perfect opportunity for Democrats to push toward a solution. Buchanan decries the claim that the correct path is to triangulate between the policies of the left and the right and explains why now, more than ever, progressive policies are the best response.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois i... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and six books on constitutional law... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law. Before that, he was University Profe... more

Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Wexler was a Professor of Law at Florida State University, whose... more